With the 2021-22 season coming to an end in just under two weeks’ time, we now have a relatively good idea of how a number of things will turn out. For example, all eight teams in the Eastern Conference have already clinched playoff berths, while several in the Western Conference have as well or are close to doing so. There are also some personal awards that feel secured, as barring an extremely impressive finish from Leon Draisaitl, it appears Auston Matthews will take home the Rocket Richard Trophy.
With that being said, however, there are some questions that could likely remain right up until the final few days of the season, one of which involves Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau. While some are adamant he deserves the Hart Trophy, the general consensus at this point is that it will be awarded to Matthews. That doesn’t mean that Gaudreau doesn’t have a shot at winning any personal awards, however.
With his two-goal game in Monday night’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks, Gaudreau is now up to 107 points on the season. As a result, he has moved past Leon Draisaitl for sole possession of third in league scoring, and trails the leader in Connor McDavid by just three points. As everyone knows, McDavid is an incredible talent, viewed by most as the top player in the NHL today, meaning catching him won’t be an easy feat. With that being said, there is a chance, and that’ll be explained below.
Looking at Gaudreau’s Remaining Games
Gaudreau and the Flames have six games remaining on their schedule this season. Two of those games will come against the Nashville Predators, while the others will be against the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets.
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Interestingly enough, he has been much more successful against teams in the Western Conference this season, recording 62 points in 43 games. Those numbers are far better than the still impressive 43 points he has put up in 32 games versus Eastern Conference teams. Luckily for him, all five opponents mentioned above are Western Conference teams, meaning he could be in for several more multi-point nights to close out the 2021-22 campaign.
Gaudreau’s 62 points in 43 games against the West gives him a ridiculous 1.44 points per game. Based on that alone, it would suggest that over these final six games he will put up roughly nine points, getting him to 116 on the season.
Flames’ Opponent’s Schedules
As mentioned, McDavid is currently the frontrunner in this race, while Draisaitl sits five behind him at 105. They too have six games remaining on the season, with their opponents being the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks. While those six teams holding McDavid to a combined six points or less won’t be an easy task, he did have a tough month in January by his standards in which he managed just seven points in nine games, meaning that while it isn’t likely, it could happen.
As for Draisaitl, it seems rather unlikely he would hit Gaudreau’s projected point total of 116, given that he would need 11 points in six games. Of course, he is one of the best players in the game, proven by both his Art Ross and Hart Trophy win in 2019-20, but he remains much less of a threat at this point.
Last but not least is Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, who currently sits at 108 points on the year. He and his team have seven games remaining, with their opponents being the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. One potential positive for Gaudreau in this situation is that this isn’t the easiest of schedules, but with how well the Panthers are scoring this season that may not matter.
For Huberdeau to sit at or below Gaudreau’s benchmark of 116, he would need to have eight points or less in his remaining seven games. Similar to McDavid, that seems like a tough task, but it is worth noting he has played at a similar rate as of late, having recorded six points in his past five games.
Tight Race Down the Stretch
There is no denying that winning the Art Ross will be no easy task for Gaudreau, and at this point, appears rather unlikely. With that said, he has really put himself into the race as of late, thanks in large part to a recent surge that has seen him record 22 points in his last 12 games. With how well he has been playing, perhaps his final point total ends up being even higher than 116. Of course, these are all hypotheticals that could play out much differently, but regardless of what happens, this race appears to be one that will come right down to the finish.